May 25, 2007

Iraq Dominates PEJ’s First Quarterly NCI Report

Broad Topics of Coverage

How did the attention devoted to the Iraq war and the 2008 elections affect the overall impression of the issues and events in the first quarter of the year? Grouping stories according to their broad topic areas—foreign affairs, crime, health, politics, science—helps paint that bigger picture and provide a sense of what has and has not been covered in the news. One thing that seems to have been missing in these 90 days is the coverage of specific ongoing domestic and social issues.

Consider, for instance, that the health care system made up roughly 1% of the newshole. The same was true of race and gender relations, education, housing, and religion. Global warming also made up 1% of the newshole. All other environmental issues combined made up less. 

Immigration, despite the debate in Washington, also made up roughly 1% of the coverage.

A host of other issues made up even less, including air transportation, philanthropy, aging, labor, poverty, AIDS, sprawl,Social Security, and transportation.

Each of those issues generated less attention than accidents and disasters (5%), celebrity and entertainment (4%), lifestyle news (3%), and sports (2%).

The only separate domestic social issues that made up a noticeable size of the newshole in the first three months were business and economics (6%) and crime (8%).

International coverage that did not involve the United States, it accounted for 8% of overall coverage.  The largest element of that was stories about the internal affairs of different countries, and the military conflicts of other countries that did not involve the United States.